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Old May 2nd, 2007, 11:12 AM   #1
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FX-7 advice for newbie

I'm planning on doing a short documentary that will include a lot of interviews, b-roll footage, maybe some walk & talk (is that the right term?).

This is my first attempt at this and the FX-7 seems to be the best HDV option in my price range/experience level.

Couple of questions:
-Is there a wide angle lens you would recommend?

-For interviews, I was thinking of using the Beachteck DXA-FX Audio Adapter to use a better mic. Would you recommend using a camera mounted shotgun mic, or wireless lav for interviews, or both?? 80% of the time I'll probably be shooting by myself, so I want to try to keep it simple but still get the best results. Is it too much to try to monitor sound and shoot and interview?

Any recommendations for a shotgun mic and lav mic (should i definitely use wireless?) would be welcome also.

Sorry for such basic questions, but this looks like a great place to start!

Thanks.
Mike
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 12:23 PM   #2
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Well unless you have to, I wouldn't go wireless. Sony's UWPC1 system is very advanced, but there's really no reason to use it unless you can't run a wired connection.

For interviews I would say a lav microphone is your best option, but I would just run your XLR cable from your lav mic right into your Beachtek box. I've used Sony's ECM77B lavalier and have been extremely impressed with the results. I can understand why it's been a broadcast standard for many years.

That said, if you need XLR for your camera have you crunched the numbers to see how much the price difference would be if you just purchased the HVR-V1U instead? I would prefer to have the XLR built onto the camera instead of having a Beachtek box attached to the bottom of it. Not to mention you can do a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning on the V1U that you can't do with the FX7.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 12:28 PM   #3
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Most of your questions are audio-based, which would be better suited for the "Now Hear This" forum, but I'll make a few recommendations anyway.

If you're shooting indoors, get a hyper cardioid microphone like the Rode NT3. If you get a shotgun you'll probably be dissapointed by the quality of your results. Shotguns should really only be used outdoors in my opinion. That said, mounting a hyper like the NT3 on top of your camera isn't the best idea because your camera will probably be further away from your subject than your mic should be.

For good quality results you really want to get that mic as close as possible, so if you're a one-man-band, you'd have to mount it on a C-stand over your subject. Which is why a lav mic would be easier.

You may want to get someone to read your questions and interview for you, the more attention you can pay to your composition and audio levels the better. If you're going to do the interview yourself, I wouldn't attempt to control the audio manually, I would set it to auto and adjust your AGC settings accordingly.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 02:51 PM   #4
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Mike
Just bought an FX7 myself.
Don't know what your budget is, but I got mine at a deep discount, under $2300, and a used Beachtek 8 for $160. So that's the camera and XLR for under $2500.
Don't think you'll be able to get a V1 for that, even used.

Check out the Beachtek specs very carefully, because the more expensive FX only has a limiter, whereas the 8 does more stuff for less money. Sure, the 8 is slightly wider than the bottom of the FX, but so what?

However, once you get one mounted up under your FX7, it's much better than the audio controls on a lot of these cameras.
Plus you can't argue with the quality of the audio preamps.

For your interviews, I'd go with what Craig said. And I'd ask you to try one more thing. The Radio Shack lav mic. Yes, another cheesy idea from me, but I used a pair to record a classical music concert when they first came out (yes, that long ago) and immediately went out and bought half a dozen of them. I still use them for interviews.

Of course the Tram 50, COS-11 and ECM77 are all undeniably great mics.
However, if you spend all your money on those and not enough on other stuff, such as a short shotgun and a very good mic mount, a good boom or mic stand, and a popper stopper, or even a decent vampire mount and screening for your lav, you'll get bad to unusable audio, for instance, because of clothes rustle or off-axis mic placement. Not to forget something nice like a litepanel on top of your camera, something I'm finding increasingly hard to shoot without, especially in run-and-gun situations.

If you're planning on shooting all of this doco on the FX7, be aware that the pros do this a slightly different way. Most all of them use a sound person.

Now, I just shot a pilot for the Food Network by myself, crew-wise, but it took twice as long and was a pain in the backside, and it was only a two day shoot.

Even if it's your significant other, or a friend, of someone else. You're going to get much better audio if you spend a day or two practicing with the other person, getting to know more modest equipment (such as a shot shotgun mic on a short pole into a used DAT machine, for instance - I just saw a used Fostex DA-P1 for around $350, but even a DATman will do the job) or even direct into a Beachtek, will get you great audio, and as you know, it's the audio that sells the picture, especially in a run-and-gun situation. (otherwise you get the clonk-clonk-clonk of the cameraman running, all that other stuff that you'll have to cut out of the audio track).

So my recommended basic minimum setup would be this -

Basic camera, no gizmos
Spare batteries
Skylight/UV filter to protect your lens
Circular Polarizer filter to get those great deep skies, or to get rid of glass reflections
Good soft camera bag (I use Lowepro magnums, left over from my stills days , work great, around $50 used)
Good tripod (Bogen, usually) with shoulder sling bag
Good headphones (Sony MDR7506)
Litepanel or similar cool LED onboard face/eye light
(Maybe an LTR 100w Pepper or three with barndoors, stands, scrims, stingers, depending on the shoot)
Maglite (small one), air can, lens chamois, cleaning gear

Sound person
short shotgun mic, windshield, mic mount (good one)
boom pole with shoulder sling bag
mic cables (at least two)
lav mic (not wireless)
Beachtek 8 or similar
good headphones, 2nd set (I've used only Sony MDR7506 for years)
separate recording device (DAT, card recorder, whatever)
good soft bag for all of that. A lot of people use something that looks like a backpack in reverse, a kangaroo pack to hold the equipment at your chest so you can see the gear while you're using the mic pole, etc.

Then at home:

good studio mic (check out Studio Projects for good and cheap)
mic stand, used
popper stopper, used

Good editing setup (can't beat FCP in this arena, IMO. The editing functions are basically the same as the others, plus you get way cool titling and graphics as well)
on good computer with DVD burning capability (used G5 dual core, but watch the difference between the PCI-X and PCI-e models)

The studio mic is for your high quality voice overs. You didn't forget those, did you :)?

That's just the equipment.
Don't forget your tape budget (audio and video) and cleaning supplies, if you're going into dirty field conditions. A raincoat for your equipment is a good thing too. depending on where you'll be shooting.

I have a collection of the same kind of equipment, plus or minus, that I'd take out on a pro shoot myself.
Much more than that is usually a pain to carry around, and I'd have people to do that part (the carrying around part, I mean)
Much less than that would have me concentrating more on how to kluge together a shooting solution than what's out there in front of the camera that I'm meant to be shooting.

Finally, take a day or two and test your workflow.
Take your crew, shake them out.
Shoot your dog barking, a homelss person, anything. that has audio and picture.
Chase a kid's football or soccer team. Grab that action, check out the fluid drag on your tripod head, the image slanting, all your shutter speeds, the effects and profiles package, so you know what your gear will do.
Same thing for the audio person and the equipment. It's a lot simpler, and most people can operate the record/rewind/fast forward controls, but what about sync? Sync claps on a boom with a lav and all the gear on may sound easy in theory but are, I can assure you, for a beginner, are not.

Shoot tape, and audio. Set up the gear, strike it, move it, set it up again.
Get used to doing it and remembering where each and every item of equipment is, and where it belongs. (nothing more frustrating than key equipment left behind at a previous location)

Label all your tapes.
Label all your tapes.
Label all your tapes.

Then take your (labeled) tapes, ingest them , cut, add voice over, title, author and master to DVD.

Watch the DVD and check that everything's okay.

Then you can relax (don't forget to recharge your batteries) and concentrate on
what it is you're shooting, rather than how to operate the gear.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 03:56 PM   #5
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Mike, I just got a GREAT "How to do Interviews" DVD. It's only $40 from Vortex Media, and covers all the points of lighting, setup, and camera work.

It does NOT cover audio, though.

I'd say the best audio would come from a hypercardioid mic on a boom pole, positioned 2 feet or less above the talent. Second best would be a lav. There are two reasons I say this:

1. The boom mic won't show in the shot (if you set up and shoot properly, that is). The lav on the lapel is a small, but constant reminder that "this is a video".

2. If the talent turns their head, there's likely to be significant fading with a lav. In a 2 or 3 person interview situation, you can get this. (One way around it is to hide the lav under the edge of a hat, or in a woman's hairdo. That way, the lav turns when the talent does. But the talent might not want you to mic their head.)
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 07:33 PM   #6
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Question for Chris

So, if I'm going to be shooting an interview on my own and i'm just using a wired lav running to a Beachtek, is that going to give me better sound than running straight to the camera?

I don't really think I'll have many ppl at my disposal to act as a soundman for this project, maybe here and there. If I do get someone to do the sound part, would they just have headphones running to the camera and monitor the sound levels/booms? I've never been on any type of shoot so i don't know how that would work??

I don't think I'll be going the DAT route at least for this first attempt. This is all rather daunting to be honest!

I've also got an opportunity to get the FX7 well under $2500...but where did you get the Beachtek 8??
Mike
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 08:44 PM   #7
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If you don't want to use a Beachtek and you'd rather go straight into the camera and use it on auto that's fine, just make sure that you at least run an XLR cable for that distance. Minijack will sound very poor by the time it travels to your camera, so get a mic w/ an XLR out (since there's a good chance you'll upgrade to that Beachtek down the road) and in the meantime just run a 25 foot XLR cable (or whatever) to your camera and get an adapter to turn that into a minijack.

It's not optimal, but if you want to cut the expense of a Beachtek for now, you can work around it. I'd say buy the best gear you can as you can afford it, rather than getting mediocre quality gear all at once. A good mic will last you years and years...so I would make sure to invest in a good lav if that's the route you're going.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 08:47 PM   #8
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Oh wait, your question was for Chris.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 09:20 PM   #9
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If you're shooting on your own then you need, for your interviews:

camera on tripod
headphones
beachtek
lav or shotgun mic within 2 for 3 feet of your subject.
a boom stand for shotgun mic if you use one, or some kind of muffling for the lav if you use that.

that's it.

I'd use a Beachtek, the audio quality is outstanding.
Also check your lighting. The FX7 doesn't like low light much.
It tends to add gain (which translates to grain) at the drop of a hat.

I'll check out the Radio Shack mic direct into my FX7 tonight and let you know what I think.
Never thought about doing that before, it could be great.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 11:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Irving View Post
... and get an adapter to turn that into a minijack.
1) if you buy an XLR plug and wire it in an unblanced manner to a 3.5mm plug -- it makes no difference if the connector at mic is an XLR or not. Most mics use an XLE so that's what you'll need. But, as long as the connection is unbalanced it's sensitive to noise.

2) To reject noise you need a balanced feed to a balanced tranformer. Then a short unbalanced connection to the camera.

That is an advantage to a good wireless mic. None of these issues.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 11:53 PM   #11
 
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Originally Posted by Steve Mullen View Post
1) if you buy an XLR plug and wire it in an unblanced manner to a 3.5mm plug -- it makes no difference if the connector at mic is an XLR or not. Most mics use an XLE so that's what you'll need. But, as long as the connection is unbalanced it's sensitive to noise.

2) To reject noise you need a balanced feed to a balanced tranformer. Then a short unbalanced connection to the camera.

That is an advantage to a good wireless mic. None of these issues.
Wireless mics bring other problems to the table.
Like any solution to one problem, you likely induce other problems.
A working pro will generally tell you that they'll take a converted XLR to 3.5mm on a very short cable (ie; 10") over a low cost wireless any day. If cost is the concern, the cheaper cable/converter is much more effective and safe. Wireless is usually a last option, rarely ever a first.
Even if budget isn't much of a concern, a "good" wireless mic is going to be significantly more expensive. "Good" is a relative term.
A trustworthy true diversity, UHF system isn't going to be found for sub 1K.
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 12:35 AM   #12
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Absolutely.

The plug itself isn't the issue, it's the balancing of the line that's important, which leads to a big difference in the comparative signal strength to noise and unwanted interference.

There's a bunch of things involved here to do with line impedances and such that go beyond the fact of plugs fitting together or not, but when push comes to shove in this department, DSE is quite right, most pros will take the XLR conversion and a short cable run any day before going wireless in the setup you mention.

In short, wired beats wireless in almost every instance. If somehow an octopus could boom all actors on a set simultaneously without casting mic or boom shadows, then that's the way it would be done, because it nearly always sounds better that way.

With your budget and in a contained interview environment, it doesn't make sense to go wireless.
Even the most basic wireless kit is expensive if you don't want tinny sound, pops and fades, or to record the local taxi service breaking into your dialog.

In fact, as I've alluded to before, it's probably a lot easier to advertise in your local craigslist or somesuch and enlist the help of a local pro sound guy. I'm pretty sure you can get expert help for not very much money at all., especially with such a simple setup as you're considering.
Then you can quit worrying about this and get on with your shoot, you can ask all the questions you want, and maybe even get some answers relevant to your particular situation, and then get set up with some kit that you can depend on.


Edit: I just checked out my mics, Mike, and this is my thought:
The Radio Shack lav works okay plugged straight into the FX7 without anything else: it sounds just like I remembered it.
Clear, uncluttered, some would say on the thin side .
It's a full range omni so you have to be extra careful of cloth rustle, rumble against the chest, all that kind of thing.
There's not a lot of cable on it, around 5.5ft between mic and 3.5mm plug.
It is an electret and so is battery powered (one of those button style batteries that has seemingly lasted for years) and so the S/N ratio is
pretty darned good, considering its price. I'd run an extension cable on it, maybe 2-3ft max, which should give you plenty of distance between your camera and the subject.
Now that's an okay setup, and you really can't beat it for around the $35 it costs, I believe. You will have to tweak the voice some in post to get it sounding the way you'd like, but you'll have to listen to one to see.

I plugged it into the 3.5mm input plug on the Beachtek and if started to sound fuller, more present.
That's because of the Beachtek's preamps, and it does sound nicer to the ear, but as I said, you can get to that in post if you have anything like a decent audio setup.


My other fave is a Sony ECM737 mid-side electret that also sounds pretty awesome on the FX7, but that's a different kettle of fish, and cost around $250 when new. I believe they're discontinued now, which is a pity, as these were one of the only M/S mics in that price range that sounded excellent.

However, for that kind of money you can get a decent used short shotgun, and that's what you should go for first.

Beachtek 8 was off eBay. There aren't any 8's at the moment (I just checked) but they do come up pretty regularly.

Last edited by Chris Leong; May 3rd, 2007 at 01:09 AM.
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 09:52 AM   #13
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More info - just checked my Markertek catalog (markertek.com, they do a lot of pro audio supplies) and found this item:

XLF-H8-10 $49.95

This is an XLR to camcorder line transformer by TecNec that has on-board in-line (in-plug, it looks like) electronics not only to take an XLR balanced plug and signal and convert it to a 3.5mm unbalanced signal, but also has a blocking capacitor to take out the 6v DC bias (line hum) coming from the camera's mic socket.
10 ft cable length (after the transformer). Pretty good, looks like. Neutrik XLR hardware, shielded cable.

If you want to use a better mic and hold on the Beachtek for now, this is a way to go.
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 12:48 PM   #14
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line transformer

Have you had any experience with a line transformer like this? it would be great to hold off on the beachtek for a little bit, since i'm forking out so much $$ to get up and running!
Mike
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 01:38 PM   #15
 
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The Tecnec products are pretty good. In terms of the type of product, lots of experience, and a good thing to have in your kit regardless. These are pretty simple, but they do the job they're intended to do.
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